I’ve been really inspired by Quartz‘s design and layout choices, and how they present information to their readers. For starters, taking into consideration that home pages are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the news cycle, they have a Daily Brief that gives you the most important news nuggets for the day. Perfect.
One of the challenges with the MIXTAPES series is that when I get really busy, it is an effort to be on the lookout for new or exciting music. There’s an effort that goes into curating the list, and even doing the layouts and content formatting.
I feel like I’ve let my readership down, so I’ve developed a new product known as the WATCHLIST, where I just highlight a few interesting videos I’ve come across in the week.
The presentation of these lists will also feature less editorial content about my rambling, so that I can divert my energies to proper writings in other forms.
The first WATCHLIST features my current musical inspirations, Jungle, Darkside as well as Chet Faker’s sultry promo video for “Gold”. I must say, there is some kind of future-retro cool in all these videos and music.
Jungle – Platoon
Jungle – Busy Earning
DARKSIDE – Paper Trails (RA Sessions LIVE)
Jungle – The Heat
Chet Faker – Gold
This mixtape started all because I found out how amazing Elder is, and I’ve been wanting to do a mixtape that involved my current favourite band of the moment. This week’s mixtape was inspired by the smokey, the sludgy, the sinister and the sexy. If anything, I felt an intense pressure to deliver this mixtape that was different from previous electronic incarnations, and would be something that you’d hit up in a haze of road-trippin’ psychedelics.
From the second track off their Live At Roadburn 2013 album, “Dead Roots Stirring” is the perfect representation of their indulgent, psyche and stoner rock. Granted, I’m biased because the bass intro is so fxxking intense, there’s plenty more in terms of instrumentation, arrangement and just all-round bad-assery from this three-piece that will put all your other rock ideas to shame. Listen to it. I cannot stress that enough.
If you made it past the glorious opener of this mixtape, I’m rewarding you with a jumpcut into Low Leaf’s “Rise Up”. On the one hand, it’s angular piano riffing adds that touch of neo-soul that is so infectious, the way this track launches itself in is like being hit in the face with a shovel. And a tasty shovel at that.
GOAT comes in immediately with some desert inspired riffs, and you can almost taste the danger of rattlesnakes rustling in blades of parched grass. “Hide From The Sun” does not disappoint with many magical moments that sound like they could be in a Tarentino movie, but the real star is that fuzzed-out guitar solo that takes all the cake and eats it. I almost want to put that tone into a syringe and inject it into my veins.
Another lately favourite of mine has been Chet Faker’s “Gold”. If you want to know what classy means, it’s this. Come in strong with a svelte keyboard bass intro that enters the bar, eyes turn like handclaps, a falsetto that reeks of whiskey, and lay down the law with one of the best basslines ever committed to tape. The pulsing one into a triplet just makes for a natural head-boppin’ groove, and that’s all a bassline needs to do to be dripping with sweet, sweet molasses.
So how do you top that? You don’t. Displace the first four songs of this mixtape, and tear it a new one. Happy Doghouse gives us a pleasant interlude with the dreamily distorted “Milk-bone”. By the time you’re done with this, you’d have forgotten most of the previous high, and we’re ready to land.
And let’s land into some Sex On Toast, shall we? “Escape 2012” takes it down a notch by reminding us all what was awesome about the 80’s. That B-3 peeks and boos, while we get treated to some very Tears For Fears inspired funk guitar.
Which provides us with the perfect segue into Awon & Dephlow’s “Step Up”. This is the moment right before the lights come on, so leave things dark just a little while more and don’t be afraid to open your eyes.
00:00 – 12:07 // Elder – Dead Roots Stirring (Live at Roadburn 2013)
12:07 – 17:41 // Low Leaf – Rise Up
17:41 – 21:18 // GOAT – Hide From The Sun
21:18 – 26:03 // Chet Faker – Gold
26:03 – 28:31 // Happy Doghouse – Milk-bone
28:31 – 36:22 // Sex On Toast – Escape 2012
36:22 – 39:41 // Awon & Dephlow – Step Up (Prod. Phoniks)
Yesterday, on 1 July 2014, it was SAF Day – The annual celebration of the Singapore Armed Forces that also acknowledges National Servicemen (those on active duty, on reservist duty, and those who have completed their entire tour of duty) as well as the Regular Personnel in Singapore.
Funny, I didn’t feel acknowledged or appreciated, because I feel like I’ve only been punished by this system.
Let’s put it this way, I’m pretty pudgy around the edges and I’ve had problems passing my annual physical fitness test since I left active duty in 2003, and for the past 7 years as a reserve in the army since I started my annual obligations in 2007 after completing university.
This means that since 2007, I’ve been fulfilling my National Service commitment on all fronts. I attend the annual in-camp training that is usually 3 weeks long, I fulfill all my duties with no disciplinary problems and work with my teammates and unit. I also take my physical fitness test every year, I just don’t pass it. And because of that I’m punished.
For the physically fit (if you pass the annual test), they lose 3 weeks of their civilian life. For me, I lose up to an additional 12 weeks doing remedial training. Add that up, and I spend close to 4 out of 12 calendar months being involved with the army in some way.
I find that unacceptable because the military system is severely disrupting my personal and professional obligations in the civilian sectors of society. But for the last 7 years of my life, a quarter of it belongs to the army and all their rules that come with it.
It’s unacceptable because I don’t cause any problems to my teammates nor my superiors. In the grand scheme of National Service, I’m just another statistic. Someone who did not pass the physical fitness test. A percentage of failure that gets taken into consideration by some Colonel or General whose metric of career success is % of National Servicemen who pass their annual physical fitness test, so that they receive their bonus (with my tax paying dollars) and move on to the next stage in their career, and be happy with their professional superiors and comfortably provide for their families.
The point I’m trying to make is that the National Service system severely disrupts the lives of civilians who fail an annual physical fitness test, by increasing their obligation to National Service by almost 4 times! That’s harsh and I would argue unjust. It does not take into account the record of service or the original expectation of our supposed duty to the country. I’ve probably spent more time trying to pass this damn test than actually being a military reserve for the SAF.
So I ask, is that fair? Is this how you acknowledge your supposed “Sons of Singapore”? Those of us who fail the annual physical fitness test might be a minority, but we’ve also fulfilled the SAME obligations as every body else, and anything more is a punishment.
Scrap the remedial training program altogether. As a deterrent it is unacceptable to my rights as a citizen.
Riot girls, NO PANTZ, performed their debut gig at the 100 Bands Festival held at Kovan Hub on 22 June 2014. A humble crowd of family, friends and unwitting bystanders witnessed the cutesy-sushi-frenzy of four riotous girls who had gathered on the Internet and aspired to achieve their dream of forming an all-girl rock band.
Punk was the ideal genre to start with, but with an eclectic taste in music, nonsensical yet alarmingly poignant lyrics, who knows what else these girls will achieve in the short and long term.
Made up of two DJs (A/K/A and Pixiedub), and two drummers (Obedient Wives Club and The Powderfuls between them), this band should not even exist, but by the forces of reckless determination, they’ve found their place in making a ruckus with whatever they have on hand.
And I’m proud to call them friends (and one, my girlfriend!). On to the videos!
Riot on at: fb.com/NOPANTZ
“Rebel Girl (Bikini Kill Cover)”
This mixtape has been sitting on the back burner for at least two months, and so has posting of any form on this blog. I guess being busy is one thing, but sheer laziness and having an undisciplined approach when it comes to writing is another. Writing isn’t my day job, and increasingly, that’s the battle that I’ll face as I grapple with myself. Will I allocate enough of my creative energy for creative pursuits. I don’t really want to get into all the details now, but I’m of the belief that by correctly portioning and protecting my time, I think I could maintain a sort of balance.
A little bit more about this mixtape perhaps. Only one other song made it through from when I first compiled this mixtape back at the tail end of April or the start of May and that’s Touch Sensitive’s “Slowments”, a tasteful and ethereal after hours track. After revisiting the original mixtape yesterday, it just didn’t seem to cut it and I went scouring for more new music, and boy am I glad with this week’s haul.
I’m not too sure how I arrived at Pixelord (Check his Tumblr out, it’s hypnotic), but I was drawn to his fancy use of beats and bass. It’s classy, cheeky and not in your face. So from his feed, I pulled out his recommendation of BSN Posse’s “Anchovies With Lemon” as well as his own collaboration with Seablaze for the track, “Hedron Luv”. Judging by the creative direction of both art and music, the producer seems inspired by the kitschy mishmash of Internet culture known as Seapunk. I like it, you’ve got bits of house, garage, DnB and beats all rolled into one giant burrito of culture. Whether it’s a healthy diet, probably not.
Another sound that I’ve been turned onto lately by my girlfriend, is Trap. I used to knock it off as just another trend, in the vein of dubstep and EDM, cliched highs and lows as well as the generic bandwagon-ing hooks, yet. However when done right, there’s massive groove to be found in the drops. It’s the combination of droning bass with off-beat snare work after a well-built surge that puts you in a euphoric headspace. Exciting stuff. My recommendations are Djemba Djemba’s remix of BANKS’ “Fall Over” and his own “Chronic Heart Failure”, which is sinister stuff.
Electric Mantis sneaks in with “Flips And Flops, Drips And Drops”, which is just what I needed to break up the overdose of seapunk and trap. A swiningin’ 4/4, that uses staccato to great effect, it’s the perfect breather and setup as the fifth track in this mixtape.
Our closer is a strong finisher. Right after the sinister “Chronic Heart Failure”, the juxtaposition of Low Leaf’s piano-driven “Set Me Free” rounds off this entire mixtape with some astounding future soul. Don’t ask me how it works, but that vibe of live instruments approached in an angular manner just made sense to me.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s mixtape!
00:00 – 07:03 Touch Sensitive – Slowments
07:03 – 10:53 BSN Posse – Anchovies With Lemon (Pixelord Bootleg)
10:53 – 16:18 BANKS – Fall Over (Djemba Djemba Remix)
16:18 – 20:30 Pixelord & Seablaze – Hedron Luv
20:30 – 24:07 Electric Mantis – Flips And Flops, Drips And Drops
24:07 – 27:07 Djemba Djemba – Chronic Heart Failure
27:07 – 24:19 Low Leaf – Set Me Free
Man, it’s been a crazy two months, but here I am today, close to the middle of April 2014 with another mixtape. On some level, I wish I could do these more frequently, but sadly, music has been rather stale for me of late. Not that many exciting new sounds that I cared about enough to write about.
However, that all changed when I got to listen to the new HTRK album.
For one, it’s gloriously minimal, and the simple melancholia awoke something in me. Almost as if, even in the storm of nihilism, someone out there managed to create something that described nothing.
As everything wraps around you like a blood haze, a red tint of the mirage that lies to your eyes. But your heart knows better and seeks deeper. Down into the trenches of something absolute, something tangible, something that could be found, but all were just electrosynaptic lies of the flawed vessel of human transcendence.
Then we awaken to something carnal. The primal beast awakes to instinct and indulgence takes over. What have we hear? But the battered body of a cruel life. Scars that bear and the roar of a cornered, wounded animal.
And when left to die under storm clouds, a drizzle that pitters but doesn’t patter. We pray for rain, to wash away the pain. Though we are not indulged, carrions look intently, eating only what has passed. But we shall not, we shall live maimed, broken, scarred and butchered. But never to die in the open, but in the warm comfort of death’s bed.
Whilst the grip tightens and the body spasms, one last desperate cry to the heavens for salvation as the infinite sky watches over, starring, smiling and crying. Yes I will save you, no you are beyond saving. This be the day we forsake each other, and you are released from the snaking tendrils of life’s trap. Your heart beats faster, for one last celebration, the last breath you’ll take. A breath more glorious than they first one you took.
So where will you go now? Where will your released soul take you? Will you find rest? Will you find peace? Will you find what it is you think you’ve found? As wave after wave, crashes upon the cliff that holds the castle, keep us in your thoughts and keep us in your prayers. I haven’t found my way, the way towards the light.
Have I made it? Did it work in the end? Counsel me, all who love to give counsel. I will not listen, but I will hear. I need the noise as I need air, but deprive me this, and my soul rises from the depths of the ocean to take me to a place of desert calm. I’m already here, waiting for you, and no one in particular to arrive.
“I am the moss that grows on stone. I am the rock to pave your roads. When you inhale, I fill your lungs. When you exhale, don’t let me out into the world.”
This shall be a slow start to finding my way with words again. It’s a tad debilitating that what used to be so natural to me, now seems like a chore and discipline.
But with it comes a bit more measure, a bit more thought to what I have to say down here. I look back on my old entries, pre-working life, and see the sort of naiveté that plagues most people who have not seen the world. Not that I’ve truly seen the world, but I probably have chalked up a few wins today as opposed to my twenty year-old self.
And still, I wouldn’t trade now for then, or then for now. The old blogs represented a type of energy, or perhaps enthusiasm, to express in the written form. Whether intended or not, that seems to be the trait that is displayed. I feel a bit more cautious now, perhaps because I’m supposed to have traded youth for experience, and yet, the older we get, the more things we actually don’t know. So how do we sound like we know everything, when we clearly don’t?
Obviously, that’s just rhetoric. But I hope that in building the processes for sharing my thoughts and opinions, that I will be able to exercise this part of myself. I don’t know if it’s just self-comfort, but I’m telling myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect on this platform. As I wonder aloud, it thrills me that there is still joy to be found in these reflexive exercises, and while I may not go down in the annals as one of our generation’s greatest thinkers, at least I bothered to share my thoughts.
Surely that counts for something? Unless it’s more noise than signal.
But that surely is the plague of this phase of the information age. That we are content to not think, but just share the knowledge that we stumble upon. Perhaps what I feel is tantamount only to myself, or if I’m more humble, tantamount to kin who feel the same way. That we write not to prove to others that we exist, but to prove to ourselves that we exist.
Maybe it’s as sad as it sounds, but in this moment right now, it gives me comfort. And maybe I carved this little piece of cyberspace just so I can do that, to be able to be myself, and be by myself. Under this category of the new site, this is a tiny portion that I can be who I am, not the musician, not the marketer, not the professional, but the person.
So here’s to being more human.
I’ve been evading the mixtape series because everything about this site was in disarray, but if you bore with the silence, then I’m happy to present the very first mixtape of 2014.
Amidst the celebration of the new year, I’ve found myself in a comfortable melancholy where I don’t have to listen to the inane drivel of popular culture. Instead, here are some standout tracks where I remain comfortably numb.
Never heard of them till they were reviewed by Anthony Fantano. If anything, Have A Nice Life have a new album coming out, and I’d be hard-pressed to listen to more of their brand of desolation. There are two more tracks by them in this week’s mixtape, so let’s just comiserate.
One more desert road to cross, and a fantastic re-imagining by Grabowsky of the Kyuss classic.
Love this intro so hard, but the riff grows on you as well despite sounding like almost any other desert riff.
Don’t make this about the bass fuzz. Don’t make this about the bass fuzz. It’s all about the bass fuzz. That glorious fuzz that churns a tempest of depravity as you watch the world burn.
While the bassline sounds like it was inspired by The Cure’s Fascination Street, all doubts are allayed once the generous helping of ghostly reverb baptises your ears and seemingly brings you to your senses. That’s when you know we don’t know anything.
I don’t think this has a title. All I got was a message from F ∆ U X E saying that he had finished working on something with the HYBRDTHRY collective, and this was what resulted. While less electronic than his earlier work, one gets the sense that this producer is very happy blurring the lines between daylight and the nocturne. Four AM, the witching hour. (Update 3 Feb 2014: F ∆ U X E reached out to us and illuminated us to the title of this track. It’s “Till Tomorrow, Yesterday”)
Another interesting oddity from Singapore-land. The project of Basement In My Loft bass player, Halcyon (Zhong Ren Koh), brings to the forefront the musician’s ideas and talent. While only a demo, the chord progressions, musical hooks and vocal arrangements all stand testament to the earnestness of this young talent. Rawness and honesty are this new project’s strength, and I hope to hear more from the group.
After roughly four years trying to maintain between two to four blogs at any given time, I’ve decided to re-consolidate everything under one domain. Again.
It was a good experiment to try and separate my personality or interests across separate publications, however, if there’s anything I learned about myself in the process, is that it was too fragmented for me, and I failed in achieving a gestalt, which was my vision.
Still, while I grieve myself for not meeting my original goals, as part of failing fast, or with some sort of dignity, I wouldn’t arrive at this post today if I had not originally started out in this first place. That’s rather roundabout, but not everything goes linear as planned. I think we can cut ourselves some slack, so long as we learn from the journey, failure or otherwise.
So it’s with a starting point of failure, but with a sense of achievement, wonder and anticipation as I discover again, what it is I write for, who it is I write for, or if anything of that really matters.
Part of my new-found epiphany, is that while I was unable to split myself between professional and personal pursuits across separate blogs, I can to some degree, organize my personal and professional lives through categorization. I hope that in the pursuit of simplicity, this means that for you as a reader, there is only one domain to remember, and one domain for me to update. It’s not just about writing, mind you, but about maintaining the administration for multiple blogs. Something that I did not fully prepare myself for when I started on this journey four years ago.
To me, this is a continued journey into achieving some simplicity in my life. While organization was something I tried to accomplish in the past, I hope this is a refinement toward that ideal. One domain, and a clear distinction to two important components of my life. My plan is not have more than two main categories, personal and professional, and hopefully I will not need to add more sub-categories either. However, we’ll reexamine that with regards to the regular fixtures I hope to include in this new iteration of my blogging habits.
So there you have it, a full circle at thirty-one years of age in the fourteenth year of the twenty-first century.
See you on the other side!